Do you have a high-pressure job? Could you be described as a workaholic? Maybe with perfectionistic tendencies and a high need for achievement?
Are you, generally, perfectly healthy during the working week but regularly experiencing headaches/migraines, fatigue, muscular pain, nausea and/or flu-like symptoms at weekends or holiday/vacation times?
If I've just described you, you may have 'leisure sickness' - first identified by Dutch psychologist, Ad Vingerhoets of Tillburg University in 2001. And you're not alone - it seems that at least 3 per cent of the working population (particularly high-performing individuals), identify themselves as suffering from symptoms of illness at times when work-related pressure is off and they don't have much on their 'to-do' list.
As I understand it, the theory is that leisure sickness is caused by the fact that the immune system - the body's defence mechanism - works particularly efficiently when it's under stress and boosted by the production of adrenaline. However, when that pressure is removed (as it is at weekends and during holidays/vacations), and adrenaline levels start to fall, the body becomes more susceptible to illness.
Another theory is that, at weekends and holidays, people who thrive in high-pressure situations may start to suffer from 'underload syndrome' - a term used to refer to any kind of ill health caused by lack of stimulation or challenge. It's thought that, when stimulation and challenges are removed, the body stops producing vital hormones such as endorphins, which, in turn, results in a drop in metabolic rate, leading to low energy, a sluggish immune system and a susceptibility to infection.
Before you retire, of course, the symptoms associated with leisure sickness only last for the weekend or, at most, for the length of your holiday/vacation. But what if you regularly suffer from leisure sickness and you're approaching retirement? If the causes of this condition are underload and the inability to successfully transition from the 'work' to the 'non-work' environment, does that mean that, unless you manage the situation carefully, there's a good chance that you could spend your whole retirement feeling ill?
As someone who has a special interest in helping people who are experiencing difficulty with retirement, I am currently researching the impact of 'leisure sickness' on a retiree's ability to make a successful transition into retirement. If you are already retired and feel that your retirement is being adversely affected by leisure sickness or, if you feel that you suffer from leisure sickness, are approaching retirement and would like to explore this issue further, I'd love to hear from you. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Leisure Sickness' in the title of your email.